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'We want the truth': New inquests into Birmingham pub bombings begin

The attack on two pubs came at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

File photo dated 22 November 1974 of the rubble in the Mulberry Bush pub in Birmingham after one of the bombs detonated.
File photo dated 22 November 1974 of the rubble in the Mulberry Bush pub in Birmingham after one of the bombs detonated.
Image: PA Wire/PA Images

INQUESTS BEGAN TODAY to re-examine the deaths of 21 people in the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, amid claims police failed to heed warnings.

In 2016 a coroner ordered new probes into the twin attacks at the Mulberry Bush and Tavern in the Town pubs.

The bombings are widely believed to have been carried out by the provisional IRA, although the group has never formally claimed responsibility.

The new inquests came after evidence emerged that police missed two warnings about the 21 November 1974 attack, which also left 182 people injured — one 11 days before, and another on the day of the bombings itself.

The attack on two pubs in Britain’s second biggest city came at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. 

The original inquests — judicial fact-finding investigations that do not apportion blame — were halted by a police probe that led to six men being wrongly jailed for the bombings in 1975.

The Birmingham Six, five of whom were Belfast-born Catholics, were jailed for the murders and served 17 years behind bars before their convictions were quashed by the Court of Appeal in 1991.

The men were freed, after what is seen as one of Britain’s greatest miscarriages of justice. No one has since been convicted in relation to the attacks, but the police investigation remains open.

Eleven jurors – six women and five men – were sworn in earlier today as the inquests reopened after a long campaign by victims’ families. The inquests could last up to six weeks.

‘We want the truth’  

A new coroner, Peter Thornton, told jurors reconsidering the cases that they would not deal with the issue of who planted the bombs, saying that was a “task of police, prosecutors and the criminal courts”.

Instead they would hear evidence alleging British security forces might have had some forewarning about the attacks, including an “overheard” conversation in a prison, he explained.

“This is something that the city of Birmingham has suffered now for many years,” Thornton added, after he commenced proceedings with a minute’s silence.

While the inquests will inevitably focus on those who died we must also remember many other lives were and continue to be affected.

Paul Anthony Bridgewater’s father Paul Anthony Davies died in the bombings. Speaking today, he told BBC News: “The coroner has ruled out a lot of things but we want the truth really.

“We want the truth and we want to know what happened back then. It’s been too long and there’s that many theories out there and unanswered questions as well.”

Contains reporting from © AFP 2019 

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Órla Ryan

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